Warren Buffett (Image: Reuters)
A New York City official has asked Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway to sever ties with the coal industry citing it as the "smart thing to do" given its impact on the environment.
According to a statement released by Comptroller Scott Stringer on April 24, he has sent letters to Berkshire, American International Group Inc and Liberty Mutual, on behalf of three New York City pension funds, urging them to divest from the industry.
"Divesting from the coal industry is the right thing to do for our planet, our future and our children - and it’s the smart thing to do for investors," said Stringer said in the statement. "Continuing to invest in coal projects will only create greater financial risk, potential liability and future cost burdens."
Stringer is the 44th New York City Comptroller. He helps oversee the city’s public pension funds.
Responding to the letter, representatives of Liberty Mutual told Bloomberg that environmental sustainability is a key focus of the company and it is actively taking measures to reduce its carbon footprint. Meanwhile, AIG and Berkshire Hathaway did not comment, the publication said.
This is not the first time the billionaire investor has come in crosshairs with environmental activists. In 2016, he was strongly criticised by environmental advocacy groups for his claims that climate change will be a manageable and profitable risk for the insurance industry.
"As a citizen, you may understandably find climate change keeping you up nights," Buffett wrote in his 2016 annual letter to shareholders. "As a homeowner in a low-lying area, you may wish to consider moving. But when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries."
Buffett reaffirmed his stance on the issue in 2019 saying that his personal views have no place in how he runs Berkshire Hathaway for shareholders.
Berkshire Hathaway's energy arm owns electric power company PacifiCorp, which has a sizable fleet of coal power plants. Another company in its portfolio - Burlington Northern Railroad - is involved in the shipping of coal as well.